Collaboration Central to the Plan

August 5, 2016

In writing this blog post, I can’t help but feel presumptuous about trying to comment on an organization that I’ve worked with for a little over 10 days. Who am I, you could say, to understand the deeper implications of the work of a globally-recognized international nongovernmental organization (NGO) from the comfortable seat of an intern’s chair, where I’m just reading about its work and advocacy?  That is certainly a thought that has occurred to me often over the past fortnight. But I’ve come to the conclusion that regardless of how shallow my scratch of the surface of Plan, that does not diminish my understanding of one key approach of the organization: collaboration.

That characteristic was immediately clear to me from my first day.

Monday mornings signal the weekly International Program (IP) meeting, a general gathering of staff at 9:30 a.m. to assess the work priorities of the various technical sectors across the office: the state of their projects, their announcements, their plans, and importantly, their concerns. While meetings such as this are not uncommon in an office environment, I was struck by its evident importance.

Plan, primarily a child-centered organization, boasts a varied agenda, addressing countless development issues around the world. Hundreds of projects scattered across country offices dominate the working lives of Plan’s employees, who devote time, effort, and enthusiasm to work with communities in solving their own development challenges. One might think, knowing the scope of Plan’s work, knowing the magnitude and complexity of the challenges faced, that staff would be overwhelmed by high reaching.  But what was immediately recognizable from each Monday IP staff meeting was the focus on communication and problem sharing: being clear about what needed to get done, by who, and by when.  And, what was noticeable to me was that people took notes, asked questions, reacted, and supported each other.  The meetings are a good example of collaboration at work.

I wonder if this easy sense of collaboration stems from the culture of work Plan has with communities in the field.  After reading up on countless Plan projects during my internship (a result of a task to help write Country Office descriptions for Plan’s website and country WASH & Health capacity statements), collaboration seemed to be at the center of every single goal a project wanted to achieve. In fact, although in many ways unique, each project had one formula for success: a statement along the lines of: “Through communication and collaboration, Plan and communities implemented….” Plan’s willingness to involve, plan, support, and mentor communities really necessitates team effort and team commitment. There is a certain beauty in the way Plan willfully plunges into the many challenges those efforts may bring, all in order to support sustainable change and improve the quality of lives in communities around the world.

So if there is one thing, among the many that I’ve learned working here at Plan, it’s the important role of collaboration and communication in making change.  Go team!